The technical progression and fashion fusion that define 686 are a reflection of the life experience of Mike Akira West, the founder and creative visionary of the brand. In the late ‘80s, Mike West was deeply involved in the SoCal skateboarding scene. After being introduced to snowboarding in the mountains near Big Bear, West knew he had found his new passion and a fresh medium for self-expression. Drawing inspiration from his vintage collection of clothing and the free expression of rap, punk, and jazz music, West began dreaming up designs and in 1992 he founded 686 Technical Apparel. He was just 20 years old.
While the meaning of the 686 name has given rise to a host of urban legends, the reality stems from significant dates and numbers in Mike West’s own life. For instance, 6+8+6=20, his age when he founded the company. Working from his dorm room with an old roller fax machine and desktop computer, West began building the brand from the ground up, teaching himself how to run a business one day at a time. Following an initial launch comprised mostly of beanies, T-shirts, and denim, 686 introduced its first technical snowboarding jacket in 1993.
Fortunately, timing was on Mike West’s side. As the popularity of snowboarding grew exponentially through the ‘90s, 686 was there to provide the style snowboarders wanted with the weather protection they needed. By combining SoCal street and skate fashion with high-performance fabrics and features, 686 was able to create the jackets and pants that became the uniform of a burgeoning army of devoted snowboarders. While 686 may be primarily known today for its fashion-forward designs, it has always been what Mike West calls a “purposeful product” company, meaning it creates product with a specific function in mind. Beyond good timing and a lot of hard work, it’s the smart combination of high quality and progressive style that have led to the success of 686
686 has been independently owned and operated from the beginning, and Mike West is still sitting at the helm as the CEO and creative mastermind. By choosing to not sell out, 686 is able to pursue a creative and technical vision without answering to the demands of shareholders and corporate suits. This freedom has allowed for progressive fashion as well as technical developments like InfiDry (a waterproof/breathable membrane technology), SMARTY 3-in-1 layering systems, and the popular line of patented Toolbelt functional belts that incorporate the essential tools riders need on a compact belt buckle. From the perfect women’s jacket to a weatherproof pair of snowboarding pants, 686 is your ticket to high tech, good times, and fresh style.